- Law Student Profile
Matthew Lahaie: Doctor, Lawyer, or Both?
by Douglas May
Through the MIT International Program, he found work as a pro bono consultant to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Institute for Health Education, where his focus was HIV/AIDS resource development. After spending nearly a year in that position in Beijing, he returned to Boston to work in a laboratory doing HIV immunology research.
Lahaie says, "At that point I wanted to study medicine, and I eventually entered the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine to pursue my MD. I completed the first two years of medical school, passed the first licensing examination, and decided to take a sabbatical. I decided to take advantage of the MD/JD program between Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. I started my JD at ASU last August."
Lahaie is entering his second year of law school but will complete his law degree by next May. He chose ASU because of the established program it has with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. It allows for the completion of the standard legal curriculum in 21 months, "seamless integration with our medical school curriculum," he says, and financial support from both institutions.
"Additionally," he adds, "the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU has an excellent center for law, science, and technology and allows for focused study in related areas. Ultimately, my interest in law exists at the intersection of law and medicine, and the center is a really unique opportunity."
Not sure if he's actually going to become a lawyer, Lahaie says he's still trying to decide how his dual training will be best combined.
Lahaie quips, "Actually, one of the reasons I decided to pursue my JD was a personality inventory that my medical school administered during orientation. You take the test, and it aligns your selections with various professions. Attorney was near the top of my list. (I still have no idea why a professional school would administer a career placement exam on day one. Most of my peers were none too happy to be told they matched better with landscape architecture than medicine.) Toss in a childhood fascination with courtroom drama, an interest in advocacy and policy, plus a ready-available and perfectly tailored educational program, and wham! I'm a 1L."
Lahaie says that what he most enjoys about the study of law is the contrast between medicine and law.
He states, "In medicine ultimately there is an answer or truth underlying a patient's pathology. Granted, it may be clouded by overlap with other conditions or exist beyond our current understanding. We may get it wrong, but there's a kernel of truth there to be discovered and acted upon.
"In studying law I now see much of the world as situations where competing values and interests need to be weighed. There may be no fundamentally right answer, yet an answer is required. I appreciate the challenges and nuances of the practice of law and the very important role that it plays in our lives. I really think that legal training offers its students an intellectual discipline and thought process that's invaluable in many spheres of life and work."
As far as influences go during his time in law school, Lahaie says that the legal department at the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic has been available to mentor him and his colleagues and that working with them has been an excellent experience. He says that he's very much enjoyed working with the faculty in the law, science, and technology program.
"Professor Gary Marchant and Professor Sandy Askland deserve special mention," he adds.
When asked if he has any favorite courses at ASU, Lahaie says, "I've really enjoyed my constitutional law courses. There's just something about our constitutional democracy and how our government and all of our rights flow from a document that's survived for so long. I think the material is fascinating and timely."
The closest Lahaie has come to interning has been participating in experiences and seminars that Michael Brown and his colleagues at the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic legal department have facilitated.
Lahaie remarks, "They've been really great. It's great to be exposed to the legal issues involved in the operation of a major medical center — the very issues central to my interest in the study and practice of law. There's been some contract review work, employment law, a malpractice seminar, and a few other events. Sometimes the 1L grind really wears on you, and having experiences that remind me of why I'm studying law to begin with is great for keeping up focus and interest levels."
Lahaie finds it hard to be involved in any student associations given his academic burdens and the fact that his program is crammed into such a short period of time.
"It's really difficult to find time and energy for a lot of extracurriculars."
That being said, he does participate in a lot of seminars that different groups on campus offer. He thinks that the exposure is important to rounding out his legal education.
"Only so much can be garnered in the classroom," he says.
When asked what a favorite law school memory might be, Lahaie mentions Supreme Court Justice Breyer's presenting a lecture on his view of constitutional interpretation.
"Hearing a Supreme Court justice speak is an event under any circumstances. I really appreciate the way ASU has drawn in many jurists to lecture and hear arguments — it's made the law and its practice so much more accessible as a first-year student. Having the Arizona Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hear their arguments at your school, all while you're attempting to write your own first oral arguments and persuasive motions, makes for great parallels."
As for future plans and goals, Lahaie states, "As of now, I likely expect to enter a medical residency program and complete the credentialing process for becoming a licensed physician or surgeon. I'm currently debating how I might best integrate my dual trainings and where and when I might take the bar exam.
"This has been one of the more difficult aspects of dual training — trying to balance parallel training paths and fulfill the criteria for licensing and, more importantly, gain valuable professional experience in both such that you can be a contributing member of both professions. I guess for now the answer is that we'll just see in time."
Other interests of Lahaie's are business, economics, and investing. He says he could see a point in his career when he might be interested in undertaking some entrepreneurial endeavors. More personal interests include cooking and cuisine, travel, film, literature, and sports. He says he'd also really love to learn to sail proficiently and spend some time doing it.
When asked if he has any advice for his law peers, Lahaie says, "Well, having been trained under two totally different educational philosophies of graduate education, I wonder if both don't have something to learn from each other. I think that legal education might benefit from deemphasizing its reliance on the case reading-Socratic method cycle. At some point I think it loses some efficiency, and there are other important legal skills that might benefit from additional emphasis in curriculums.
"I would have preferred more emphasis on research, writing, and oral advocacy skills and a greater bent towards practical skills and experiences. I'm sure that only having taken first-year courses should temper this opinion some. I'll save my offerings for medical education for another time."